Diabetes and heart disease are two pre-existing medical conditions that researchers believe contribute to elevated risk of severe complications from COVID-19. In fact, patients with two or more pre-existing conditions have 4.5 times greater risk of needing treatment at a hospital if they contract COVID-19, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How Diabetes Affects Heart Health
If you have diabetes, your body either makes too much or not enough insulin, which results in too much glucose in your bloodstream. Over time, high blood glucose levels can increase damage to your organs, including your heart, brain and kidneys.
Diabetes is associated with a buildup of plaque that can clog arteries, so the longer you live with type 2 diabetes, the higher your cardiovascular risk. At least one-third of people with heart failure have diabetes, and heart disease is the leading cause of death and a major cause of heart attacks, heart failure, strokes and disability for people living with type 2 diabetes.
Managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are common in people with type 2 diabetes, along with keeping blood glucose levels in check, supports heart health and may also prevent or slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease – another condition that heightens the risk of severe COVID-19 complications.
Considering that people with conditions like diabetes and heart disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, it’s especially important to keep health-related numbers in healthy ranges and manage these conditions, in addition to taking precautions against contracting the virus. Consider these tips from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association:
- If you’ve delayed or postponed medical appointments due to COVID-19, it’s vital to resume them, either in person or through virtual options.
- Continue to take medication as prescribed. If you’ve lost your medical insurance or can’t afford it, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about available resources. Stopping your medication without talking to your health care provider could lead to serious illness or death.
- Know your numbers. If you have diabetes, check blood glucose levels frequently and make necessary adjustments to insulin and diet to keep levels under control. If you have high blood pressure, make sure to monitor that number regularly from home.
- Manage stress, which can also impact blood glucose and blood pressure levels. In addition to maintaining your social support network (even if it’s through social distancing), exercise, adequate sleep and meditation can help improve your mental health.
- If you or someone around you has symptoms of heart attack or stroke, remember to call 9-1-1 as the hospital is still the safest place to go in a medical emergency.
- If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and COVID-19.
Visit KnowDiabetesbyHeart.org for resources like diabetes-friendly recipes, success stories and a list of questions to ask your doctor.
American Heart Association